Truckload freight levels in the spot market began a gradual decline toward seasonal norms in April 2014 after extraordinary volume in the first quarter, according to the DAT North American Freight Index.
Extreme weather, as well as economic and regulatory factors, reduced fleet productivity and disrupted supply chain operations throughout the winter, driving a larger proportion of shippers and intermediaries to the spot market for elusive truck capacity.
Spot market freight volume continued to trend well above historic norms in April, up 51% compared with the same month in 2013. Freight designated for vans, the predominant equipment category, was up 48%, refrigerated (reefer) freight increased 53%, and flatbed freight saw a 66% increase.
Compared with the record-breaking levels of March 2014, however, total freight volume slipped 8.8% in April. A decline from March to April has occurred twice in the past five years. Month-over-month, April van and reefer freight volume contracted 22% and 25%, respectively.  Flatbed loads rose 10% month over month, however, in an expected seasonal pattern.
Significant year-over-year rate increases accompanied the unusually high volume for all three major equipment types. Rates rose 19% for vans, 20% for reefers, and 12% for flatbeds versus April 2013. On a month-over-month basis, however, van rates declined 3.8% from March’s record highs. Rates rose 2.3% for reefers, and 4.0% for flatbeds, due to strong seasonal trends that affect cargo availability for those equipment types.
Reference rates are derived from DAT RateView. Rates are cited for linehaul only, excluding fuel surcharges, which fell on a month-over-month basis but climbed versus April 2013. The monthly DAT North American Freight Index reflects spot market freight availability on the DAT Network of load boards in the United States and Canada. Additional trends and analysis are available at DAT Trendlines.
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